by Marisa Levy
I said they had had good experience in former times, the whole kingdom
having been disturbed by the War of the Roses; though it seems nowadays
as if they wished to sharpen the thorns of those very roses.
Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys, 1533
I had a discussion with Lauren Mackay where she told me a delightful story about the late renowned historian Eric Ives. He is known for his biography on Anne Boleyn, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, which many consider the “Anne Boleyn Bible”. They went to dinner where Ms. Mackay tried to sway him on his views of Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador to the court of Henry VIII. Many historians dismiss what Chapuys reported about Anne Boleyn because of his bias against “La Putain” ( Whore ), as he called her, but this is where Ms. Mackay begs to differ. He was sending important information to Charles V, the Emperor, so why would Chapuys try to mislead him with falsehoods? Chapuys was only known to have malice towards Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cranmer, so does this make him an unreliable source? Ms. Mackay could not change Eric Ives’ views, but perhaps she can change the opinions of her readers of her outstandingly researched book Inside the Tudor Court.
Inside the Tudor Court is written in a style that makes it enjoyable for the reader. You do not have to be a Tudor historian to become absorbed in this informative book. While Chapuys’ letters have been studied in great detail, there is not much known about his private life. There was no insight into who he was as a person, but this has all changed with his first biography by Lauren Mackay. She shows us his early life in Annecy before he came to the notice of Charles V to the last of Henry’s queens.
Being a lover of Tudor history, I was enthralled by seeing the notorious Henry VIII and his court through the eyes of Chapuys. He wrote about his interactions with Henry and it gave me a lot of new information about Henry’s diplomacy and his dealings with those in his court.
Chapuys relationship with Thomas Cromwell was complicated, but I was grasped when I read about the dinners they shared and their conversations. There was real warmth and friendship between the two men. They both came up with strategies together when it was in England’s best interest to align itself with the Holy Roman Empire instead of France. Even so, King Henry might have had a difference of opinion and would catch both men off guard. Chapuys’ thoughts about Thomas Boleyn, George Boleyn and the Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk gives us captivating details into the personalities and actions of these men. It certainly reinforced my opinions about the Duke of Norfolk.
I found Chapuys’ relationship with Katherine of Aragon and Mary touching. Chapuys agonized when he could no longer do anything to help Katherine’s situation. He pledged to take whatever steps needed to help Mary and advance her cause, even if that meant helping her escape England to save her life. He refused to let Mary become a martyr, though Katherine had no opposition to both her and her daughter dying as one. Chapuys also helped guide Mary through her tumultuous relationship with her father. He was the only person who she could depend upon. Chapuys’ devotion to both mother and daughter was genuine and weighed on him heavily.
Lauren Mackay makes you feel as if you pulled up a chair and you are observing Henry VIII and those who took a vital role in his court and personal life. It gives the reader a chance to see King Henry’s tantrums, wit, cunning and betrayals. This book is a must to add to anyone’s Tudor collection. I look forward to reading Ms. Mackay’s new venture about the Boleyn men.
Lauren Mackay is an historian from Sydney, Australia who holds a Masters degree in History from the University of New England and is currently researching her Ph.D on Thomas and George Boleyn in the English Reformation at the University of Newcastle in Australia. Lauren has an intense interest focuses on lesser known historical figures, as well as the beliefs, customs and diplomacy of the 16th century. Lauren has given several oral presentations focusing on her expertise and interests in both England and Australia. For more information about Lauren Mackay, visit her website at http://lauren-mackay.com/.
Reviewed by Marisa Levy